stretch before finals

In one month, classes will be over and exams will begin. I’m starting to feel scared. I have to write a brief in the next ten days, plus get going with outlining and review. My weeks are crammed with class, work (for money), work (keeping up with class reading), besides meetings with career services and student organizations and summer clinical opportunities. My weekends are open, but there’s a ton to get done. I’ve been pretty relaxed the last couple weekends, but that’s going to have to stop in November.

The last 2.5 months have flown, so I know it’ll feel like I’ll barely blink between now and my first final. I’m so excited to be done, but in a strange way, I’ll be sad to see this semester go. I realize more and more how lucky I’ve gotten with professors this fall. I’m not looking forward to taking Property next semester and I’ll miss my Contracts professor and my unconventional Civil Procedure class. For the most part, I’m not even annoyed with my section-mates, and it’ll be strange to be in classes with totally different people I may or may not know.

But back to the task at hand, it’s time to prepare for exams. A wonderful 3L who is a sort of student leader (3L “Senior Associate” technically) in my Civil Procedure class sent out some great advice today. It was very nice of her to put this together, and I would like to share it with my blog friends who might also find it useful. Here goes:

I realize some of you may know all of this stuff, but just IN CASE, you should be using a calendar to plan out time chunks for study time, exam prep time, paper writing time and practice exam time you’ll need to adequately prepared NOW. No wishful thinking here. As a 1L, everything takes longer, so set aside a LOT of time. We are 5 weeks off from finals crazy-freak out time. Maybe you’re thinking,”But, I’m SO NOT freaking out!”
Well, grasshopper, you will be. At this time you MUST, if you have not already, start outlines for all of your exam classes. Not all classes should be outlined the same and if you have great outlines from other people, you MUST take the time to process everything SLOWLY through your own brain and create your own written product. The outline you make is often NOT the outline you take into class, but the outline making is the lion’s share of studying. Also, this is a good time NOT to listen to what most 1Ls say, because they don’t know any better than you do. Study with them, but don’t get sucked into their drama.
Suggestions
  • Make a master outline for each class, for which you can use other peoples outlines (if they’re better) and your notes. Start making decisions about what is important.
  • Determining what is and is not important is part of using the skill you will need to issue-spot and toss out the extra info Profs put on the exam to derail you.
  • For example, for torts, depending on the professor, you probably don’t need to know each case’s specific details, but you do need to know the basic fact pattern.
EXAMPLE: Boy pulls chair out from under large woman, she falls and breaks hip (or whatever), was there intent, did that intent constitute liability? OR
POKURA V. WABASH RY. CO., 292 U.S. 98 (1934)
RULE: PL Negligence is determined by the facts applied to the reasonable person standard
  • The Case & Rule approach works well for Contracts and Torts, but not so well for Crim. (probably just at my school?)
  • For Contracts, you will need a Case-Rule table or list AND a detailed checklist for concepts.
Timeline
  • 1 to 1.5 weeks before the exam: Have a detailed master outline done, ideally (but not by most people). After you have a master outline done, start paring it down to a max of 20 pages to take into the exam with a table of contents and/or checklist to refer to as you go through a problem. Anything longer than 25 pages will slow you down on the exam. Really 15-20 is better.
  • 1.5 to 1 weeks out: You need to be doing practice exams, which is the #1 way to prepare, because it will tell you
a) what your time issues are;
b) what you miss when you’re rushed, and
c)  what you DON’T know and don’t need to worry about.
  • 1-2 days before: Practice, practice, practice
  • Day before: 1 practice exam and relax, review your checklist for 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
If you literally run out of time, you MUST do at least 1 practice the day before, but not the night before (for obvious panic-inducing reasons). If you want to get serious, within 3-4 days of the exam, or even now, get 3 people you trust together, get a study room and a stopwatch and do a problem from a 3 problem exam for 1 hour or 2 problems for 2 hours –– NO CHEATING. Afterward, you discuss the answers and share ideas about what information was unimportant or meant to lead you astray, and what cases from the class your Prof was using to create the fact pattern and so on  (Ya dig me?)
  • Day of: good breakfast, bring water, coffee & snacks to exam, go to the bathroom before, and review your outline for 30 minutes the morning of, then put it away. Download the software WAY in advance and bring your exam number. Bring ear plugs.
Other important considerations
  • Re: general mental health at this time: I don’t recommend drinking too much (because you’ll need to be smart the next day), but in every study day, there is a point of diminishing returns. Stop and sleep.
  • Sleep and water are way more important than people think they are. You need a break or a vice, i.e, I randomly start smoking each finals period. No, it’s not good for me, but I promised my mom I wouldn’t go back to Meth, you know? 🙂

Well, I know that was useful and somewhat entertaining. I hope it was for some of my comrades out there in the 1L universe as well. Cheers!

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4 Responses to stretch before finals

  1. lois bruss says:

    Really nice of her to send these suggestions. Sounds like OUTLINE, Outline is very important and practice with a group.

  2. Rachel says:

    And yet another example of why I will never go to law school. You go get ’em!

  3. […] Stretch Before Finals: This post will give you a step-by-step guide to planning your study schedule. […]

  4. […] Stretch before finals – tips for preparing for and taking exams Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Blawgs I Read: Teasingly DiverseBlawgs I Read: Write and WrongI Run…Tomorrow […]

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